Kenya can­di­date pulls out of pres­i­den­tial race

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY TONNY ONYULO

NAIROBI, KENYA | Car­ry­ing a stick and plac­ard and chant­ing, “No re­forms, no elec­tions,” Ge­orge Ny­ongesa vowed not to par­tic­i­pate in the do-over pres­i­den­tial elec­tions sched­uled for this month.

“I won’t vote again,” vowed Mr. Ny­ongesa, 27, as he held up a plac­ard of op­po­si­tion leader Raila Odinga dur­ing a re­cent protest. “I can­not par­tic­i­pate in an elec­tion that has al­ready been rigged. We have to send elec­toral of­fi­cials home be­fore we can go to an­other elec­tion. They are all thieves. They stole our elec­tions.”

An al­ready tu­mul­tuous process was thrown into chaos af­ter Mr. Odinga abruptly with­drew from the pro­posed Oct. 26 vote this week. The elec­tion was hastily or­ga­nized af­ter his Au­gust loss to in­cum­bent Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta was thrown out over vot­ing ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties. With still­fresh mem­o­ries of deadly vi­o­lence from past con­tested elec­tions, the stand­off has sent fears

of tribal vi­o­lence and po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity soar­ing in East Africa’s largest econ­omy.

The ten­sions es­ca­lated again Thurs­day when the Keny­atta govern­ment an­nounced a ban on op­po­si­tion protests in the coun­try’s three big­gest cities, in­clud­ing the cap­i­tal of Nairobi, cit­ing the “im­mi­nent dan­ger of breach of peace” ahead of the vote.

The right to protest is en­shrined in Kenya’s con­sti­tu­tion, “but we shall not al­low a few peo­ple while pur­port­edly ex­er­cis­ing their free­doms to in­fringe on the rights of oth­ers,” In­te­rior Min­is­ter Fred Ma­tiangi told re­porters, ac­cord­ing to The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Mr. Odinga, a for­mer prime min­is­ter who has twice lost pres­i­den­tial races to Mr. Keny­atta, stunned the na­tion by with­draw­ing from the Oct. 26 re­peat pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, say­ing of­fi­cials had not ad­dressed le­gal con­cerns about the fair­ness of the process.

The de­ci­sion was even more stun­ning be­cause Kenya’s high court won in­ter­na­tional praise for nul­li­fy­ing Mr. Odinga’s ap­par­ent loss to Mr. Keny­atta in the first vote in Au­gust, cit­ing an in­abil­ity to rat­ify the va­lid­ity of the vote count­ing process.

“Af­ter de­lib­er­at­ing on our po­si­tion in re­spect of the up­com­ing elec­tion, con­sid­er­ing the in­ter­ests of the peo­ple of Kenya, the re­gion and the world at large, we be­lieve that all will be best served by us va­cat­ing its pres­i­den­tial can­di­da­ture,” Mr. Odinga said in a state­ment.

Mr. Odinga, the leader of Na­tional Su­per Al­liance, or NASA, is also call­ing for his sup­port­ers to keep up coun­try­wide demon­stra­tions for re­forms to the elec­toral com­mis­sion. The protests have left at least 37 peo­ple dead, ac­cord­ing to hu­man rights groups. The clashes have tra­di­tion­ally pit­ted Mr. Odinga’s Luo tribe and their al­lies against Pres­i­dent Keny­atta’s Kikuyu tribe and af­fil­i­ated eth­nic­i­ties. No can­di­date aside from Mr. Odinga and Mr. Keny­atta re­ceived even 1 per­cent of the vote in Au­gust.

“All in­di­ca­tions are that the elec­tion sched­uled for 26 Oc­to­ber will be worse than the pre­vi­ous one,” said Mr. Odinga. “We have come to the con­clu­sion that there is no in­ten­tion from the elec­toral board to make sure that the ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties and il­le­gal­i­ties wit­nessed be­fore do not hap­pen again.”

Go­ing ahead with a vote

Mr. Odinga’s with­drawal from the race has thrown the Kenyan govern­ment into con­fu­sion. Elec­tion of­fi­cials in par­tic­u­lar have been scur­ry­ing. Fol­low­ing sev­eral emer­gency meet­ings, the com­mis­sion late Wed­nes­day an­nounced that the elec­tion will go ahead with all eight of the can­di­dates who ran in Au­gust. Mr. Odinga is still be­ing con­sid­ered as a can­di­date on the bal­lot de­spite his dec­la­ra­tion.

Mr. Keny­atta, who heads the Ju­bilee Party, has stated that the elec­tions will go on as sched­uled whether Mr. Odinga par­tic­i­pates or not. Mr. Keny­atta, who com­plained bit­terly when his ap­par­ent vic­tory in Au­gust was nul­li­fied, ac­cused his long­time ri­val of wast­ing time and pub­lic re­sources by pulling out of the new poll or­dered by the Supreme Court.

“Whether Raila likes it or not, Kenyans will par­tic­i­pate in the re­peat poll be­cause it is their demo­cratic right to choose a pres­i­dent of their choice,” Mr. Keny­atta told a cam­paign rally in the coastal re­gion of Mom­basa. “We will go to the bal­lot with­out Raila. I won the Au­gust elec­tions fairly, by more than 1.5 mil­lion votes.”

Mr. Keny­atta’s sup­port­ers won­dered why a sec­ond vote even needs to be held if the main chal­lenger re­fuses to ap­pear on the bal­lot.

“We want Uhuru to be sworn in as pres­i­dent since Raila is afraid of elec­tions,” said Mon­ica Wan­jiru, a mother of three who owns a gro­cery shop in the Kay­ole slum in Nairobi. “We are tired of pol­i­tics, and we need to move on as a coun­try. Raila doesn’t want to go to elec­tions be­cause he knows he will lose ter­ri­bly.”

But Mr. Odinga has warned Mr. Keny­atta and his sup­port­ers against that move.

“They can­not im­pose some­one to Kenyans. We won’t al­low it,” he said in a re­cent press con­fer­ence. “Kenyans will not ac­cept an il­le­git­i­mate pres­i­dent.”

Dis­trust between the two ma­jor par­ties ap­pears to be reach­ing new heights. Af­ter Mr. Odinga com­plained this month that the govern­ment had with­drawn his se­cu­rity de­tail, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to cam­paign, Mr. Ma­tiangi, the in­te­rior min­is­ter, coun­tered that the govern­ment was not obliged to pro­tect peo­ple who want to cause chaos.

Mr. Odinga’s sup­port­ers also re­acted harshly to the news of the protest bans Thurs­day. Op­po­si­tion leg­is­la­tor Otiende Amollo called the di­rec­tive un­law­ful, ac­cord­ing to the AP, and said it would not stop the demon­stra­tions.

The ban is “deeply dis­turb­ing,” Ndungu Wainaina, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the non­profit In­ter­na­tional Cen­ter for Pol­icy and Con­flict, told the news ser­vice.

Mr. Odinga blamed in­ter­na­tional elec­tion ob­servers, in­clud­ing for­mer Sec­re­tary of State John F. Kerry, for Kenya’s problems. Mr. Kerry and other in­ter­na­tional mon­i­tors ini­tially ac­cepted Mr. Keny­atta’s Au­gust vic­tory as le­git­i­mate, then re­canted af­ter the Supreme Court rul­ing.

“It is un­for­tu­nate that in­ter­na­tional ac­tors who have sup­ported Kenyans in their quest for democ­racy and good gov­er­nance are now on the side of ap­peas­ing dic­ta­tor­ship in the mis­taken be­lief that it will main­tain sta­bil­ity,” said Mr. Odinga.

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts said Mr. Odinga may be bank­ing on a Supreme Court rul­ing af­ter he un­suc­cess­fully chal­lenged his loss to Mr. Keny­atta in the 2013 vote. The judges at the time ruled that if one of the can­di­dates died or aban­doned the elec­tion be­fore the sched­uled date, then the par­ties would need to nom­i­nate can­di­dates again.

“There will be no elec­tions if ei­ther Raila or Uhuru pulled out on Oct. 24, two days [be­fore] the fresh poll as or­dered by the Supreme Court,” said Peter Wa­fula Wekesa, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at Keny­atta Univer­sity in Nairobi. “Elec­tions are about com­pe­ti­tion. One per­son can­not com­pete against him­self. More im­por­tant is that the ag­grieved party is the one pulling out from the con­test.”

Mr. Wekesa didn’t think elec­tion au­thor­i­ties heeded the Supreme Court’s in­struc­tions. “All in­di­ca­tions are that there is go­ing to be no free and fair elec­tions on Oct. 26,” he said.

But the Kenyan Con­sti­tu­tion also says that where only one can­di­date is nom­i­nated, then he or she must be de­clared elected, Mr. Wekesa said.

In a bid to avoid an up­roar if Mr. Keny­atta wins of­fice in an un­con­tested race, elec­toral com­mis­sion­ers are in­clud­ing all eight pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates who par­tic­i­pated in the first elec­tion, in­clud­ing Mr. Odinga.

But the po­lit­i­cal con­fu­sion comes as the Kenyan econ­omy is strug­gling and a drought has caused food prices to sky­rocket, for ex­am­ple. Many vot­ers fear the Odinga-Keny­atta feud could have much larger neg­a­tive rip­ples.

“The cur­rent po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion is hurt­ing our busi­nesses,” said Fidel Mburu, a ho­tel owner in the cap­i­tal. “We have no cus­tomers be­cause they are afraid of the daily protests. We need to con­clude the elec­tions and move on with our lives. I don’t think we need th­ese politi­cians.”

● This ar­ti­cle is based in part on wire ser­vice re­ports.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

TEN­SIONS: Sup­port­ers of Kenyan op­po­si­tion leader Raila Odinga are de­mand­ing a change of lead­er­ship at the coun­try’s elec­tion com­mis­sion. This week, Mr. Odinga with­drew from the pro­posed Oct. 26 vote.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Kenyan op­po­si­tion leader Raila Odinga with­drew his can­di­dacy for the fresh pres­i­den­tial elec­tion or­dered by the Supreme Court, say­ing the elec­tion com­mis­sion has not made changes to avoid the “ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties and il­le­gal­i­ties” cited in the nul­li­fied Au­gust vote.

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